Texas Bishops Support New Restorative Justice Initiative

Date Posted: 5/28/2015

The Bishops of the five episcopal areas in Texas encourage congregations across the conference to provide volunteers for the new DISCIPLE Bible study pilot program in select Texas prisons.
Building on its life changing success in North Carolina and beyond, DISCIPLE Bible Outreach Ministry (DBOM) is expanding via the creation of a Texas affiliate that is already helping provide this program in Texas prisons. “In fact, the second part of our 2015 conference-wide mission project has been focused on purchasing the DISCIPLE Outreach studies for pilot programs in select prisons across the state,” shares Rev. Mark Pickett, TAC Restorative Justice Chair. “We are excited about the donations and support this summer for providing more Bibles and curriculum in our prison system.” He is particularly thrilled to report that “Dr. Mark Hicks has recently been endorsed by all five Texas Bishops to initiate the program here in Texas because it has worked so well in North Carolina, the state where he founded the program.”

Dr. Mark Hicks, president of DISCIPLE Bible Outreach Ministries National, is thrilled with the response so far. “There is wonderful potential to impact lives for Jesus Christ with a large population of incarcerated persons in Texas!” he says. The bishops are working closely with several supportive representatives from across all five conferences, including Rev. Diane McGehee, Texas Conference Director of Missional Excellence, Rev. Mark Pickett, Texas Conference Restorative Justice Chair, and Chaplain Michael Rutledge of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice as they move toward the formation of a Texas DBOM affiliate. Rev. Mark Pickett adds, “In Texas, as John 4:35 reminds us ‘this mission field is literally white unto harvest,’ so I pray people across the conference will sign up for training. Besides training for the DISCIPLE class, volunteers will need to complete TDCJ security training for volunteers.”

The Birth of the Ministry in North Carolina
DISCIPLE Bible Outreach Ministries of North Carolina was founded by two of the state’s United Methodist Conferences in 1999 with a mission to: take the study to area prisons and also to strengthen DISCIPLE Bible Study programs in local churches.  Since that time, DBOM has maintained DISCIPLE classes in 70 North Carolina prisons, jails and youth development centers.  Hundreds of local church volunteers and thousands of inmates have participated in the North Carolina prison ministry and set the pace for expansion to other states.
To aid the expansion, the General Commission on United Methodist Men is offering support as a full partner. GCUMM General Secretary Gil Hanke says, “This is a great place for men to plug into a structured ministry that makes a difference in men’s lives. In addition, it brings us in line with our Wesleyan roots. Valuable leadership from the conference offices and the UM Men will help this expansion strategy go well. We know this to be a blessing to brothers in prison, and we become blessed beyond measure.”  Bishop Wilke designed DISCIPLE to be a transformational study that identifies participants’ spiritual gifts for ministry and then challenges them to go out and make a difference for Jesus Christ. Gil says the application of DISCIPLE in the prison setting has been tremendous. While Gil is enthusiastic about using DISCIPLE in prison, Bishop Wilke, the author of the study series, is equally enthusiastic about the chief executive officer of the United Methodist Men: “Hanke is a dynamic, passionate leader who is moving the organization forward in new and exciting ways,” says Bishop Wilke.
Next Steps
Pilot locations are now being identified throughout the state.  Rev. Scott Moore, FUMC Conroe, will coordinate the expansion effort in the Texas Annual Conference.  Volunteers are now being sought to support this new mission outreach.  If you feel called to help in this effort, contact him at smoore@fumc-conroe.org.